Vaginal discharge is a fluid secreted from mucosal glands in the vagina and cervix. These secretions help to keep the vagina clean by removing cell build up and debris each day. This helps to keep the vagina and reproductive tract healthy. Many things can factor in to the color of vaginal discharge and the color can change from on day to the next. And along with color changes, the consistency of the discharge may also change.
This is most often linked to the menstrual cycle, depending on where they are in their timeline.
- Day 1-5: The uterus sheds it’s lining at the beginning of the cycle, creating red or bloody discharge.
- Day 6-14: After the period ends, there may be less vaginal discharge than normal. As the egg develops and matures, the discharge may become cloudy, white, or yellow. It will also feel and look sticky.
- Day 15-25: In the days leading up to ovulation, the discharge will be thin and slippery, much like egg whites. After ovulation occurs, the discharge will go back to cloudy, white, or yellow with sticky or tackiness.
- Day 26-28: Discharge will lighten and lessen in the days leading up to a period.
Defining the Colors of Vaginal Discharge
Shades of Red
‘Red’ is most often the result of bleeding during a period. On average, menstrual bleeding occurs around every 28 days, and is considered normal any time between 21 and 35 days. A period usually lasts between 3 and 5 days, but can be longer, or shorter.
If you are experiencing bleeding in between your periods or having any other concerning issues with your period, you should meet with your medical care team to discuss. If you have gone through menopause and experience bleeding, you should meet with your gynecologist, as this can be a sign of endometrial cancer.
Shades of White
‘White’ can includes creams, light yellows, and other light hues of these colors. If there are no other symptoms being experienced with this color, then it is most likely a sign of a healthy, lubricated vagina.
If the consistency is thicker or more like cottage cheese, with or without a strong odor, can be a sign of infection. White, thick, strong-smelling discharge is usually associated with a yeast infection, which can cause itching, burning, and general discomfort. See a doctor if you are struggling with this.
Shades of Yellow Green
When discharge has a light-yellow hue, it indicates no real problem. This shade can be very apparent when the person has recently changed their diet or added or changed their supplements.
If the discharge is a darker shade of yellow, yellow-green, or green that is a typical sign of a bacterial infection or sexually transmitted disease. Thick, clumpy, and foul-smelling odor are signs that you should meet with your medical care team as soon as possible to begin treatment.
Shades of Pink
Discharge that contains small quantities of blood can be tinged light pink, or deeper pink. This discharge is most normally seen with spotting before a period begins but can also be a sign of implantation bleeding in early pregnancy.
Some may experience a bit of spotting after ovulation, which can also trigger pink discharge. Pink discharge after sexual intercourse or sex acts can occur when small tears or irritation occurs in the cervix or vagina.
Shades of Clear
Typical, normal vaginal discharge is usually clear or slightly whiteish. It can be slippery or have the consistency of egg whites. A person is more likely to experience clear, slippery discharge just before ovulation, during sexual arousal, and during pregnancy.
Shades of Gray
Any shade of gray vaginal discharge is a sign of a potential problem with a bacterial infection specifically called bacterial vaginosis (BV). Bacterial vaginosis can cause a myriad of other vaginal symptoms including:
- -a strong odor
- -redness around the vulva or vaginal opening
If you have gray discharge, you should see your doctor as soon as possible to begin treatment.
Seek out the care of your medical team if you are facing any of the following symptoms in or around your vagina:
- Pain or discomfort
- Discharge that is frothy or like cottage cheese
- Bleeding between periods or after menopause
- Spotting after sex, more than once
- Grey, green, or yellow discharge
- A strong odor
- A burning sensation during urination
See your doctor if you notice any irregular changes in vaginal discharge or other symptoms that could mean problems in your reproductive tract.